Category Archive 'Political Correctness'
01 Oct 2017

Boris Quotes Kipling in Burma: “Good Stuff!”

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, being a literate chap educated at Eton and Oxford, naturally had the famous Kipling poem come to mind & tongue when invited to bang the bell in a temple of the Great God Budd in what used to be known as Rangoon, Burma.

The wet ends at the Guardian, and the British Left generally, had a cow over the incident.

Boris Johnson caught on camera reciting Kipling in Myanmar temple.

Foreign secretary’s impromptu recital of colonial-era poem was so embarrassing the UK ambassador was forced to stop him.

‘Not appropriate’: Boris Johnson recites Kipling poem in Myanmar temple.

The foreign secretary has been accused of “incredible insensitivity” after it emerged he recited part of a colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem in front of local dignitaries while on an official visit to Myanmar in January.

Boris Johnson was inside the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in the capital Yangon, when he started uttering the opening verse to The Road to Mandalay, including the line: “The temple bells they say/ Come you back you English soldier.”

Kipling’s poem captures the nostalgia of a retired serviceman looking back on his colonial service and a Burmese girl he kissed. Britain colonised Myanmar from 1824 to 1948 and fought three wars in the 19th century, suppressing widespread resistance.

Johnson’s impromptu recital was so embarrassing that the UK ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Patrick, was forced to stop him. …

The previously unbroadcast footage shows the diplomat managing to halt Johnson before he could get to the line about a “Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud/ Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd” – a reference to the Buddha.

The gaffe came on the first visit to Myanmar by a British foreign secretary in five years. He had taken part in a ritual involving pouring water over a golden statue of what he described as “a very big guinea pig”, when he approached a 42-tonne bell, rang it with a wooden stick and spontaneously started reciting Kipling’s poem.

A visibly tense ambassador stood by as Johnson continued: “The wind is in the palm trees and the temple bells they say …” Then Patrick reminded him: “You’re on mic,” adding: “Probably not a good idea…”

“What?” Johnson replied. “The Road to Mandalay?”

“No,” said the ambassador sternly. “Not appropriate.”

“No?” replied Johnson looking down at his mobile phone. “Good stuff.”

“It is stunning he would do this there,” said Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK. “There is a sensitivity about British colonialism and it is something that people in Burma are still resentful about. British colonial times were seen as a humiliation and an insult.

“It shows an incredible lack of understanding especially now we are seeing the impact of Buddhist nationalism, especially in Rakine state [where Rohingya muslims have been been the subject of violent persecution].”

RTWT

The sooner the Tories make Boris PM the better.

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Mandalay

BY THE old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! ”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat – jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay…

But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”
No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,
An’ the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and –
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
O the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay !

29 Sep 2017

Cambridge Librarian Returns First Lady’s Books

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Liz Phipps Soeiro, School Librarian, Cambridge, Massachusetts

First Lady Melania Trump, as part of National “Read-a-Book” Day, sent ten Dr. Seuss books complete with White House bookplates bearing the donor’s name to one specially-selected school in each of the 50 states.

One might suppose that the local authority figures would smile at the thought of the small children of their neighborhood enjoying such a gift. But, not in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In Cambridge, School Librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro spurned Melania Trump’s gift responding with a remarkably pretentious and ungracious letter, filled with partisan political venom, published in Horn Book Family Reading, reading in part.

My students were interested in reading your enclosed letter and impressed with the beautiful bookplates with your name and the indelible White House stamp, however, we will not be keeping the titles for our collection. I’d like to respectfully offer my explanation.

* * * * *

My school and my library are indeed award-winning. I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to “excellence.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers (relatively speaking — many of us can’t afford to live in the city in which we teach). My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance. The American Association of School Librarians has a great infographic on these findings. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete.

Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000; our city’s values are such that given a HUGE range in the socioeconomic status of our residents, we believe that each and every child deserves the best free education possible and are working hard to make that a reality (most classrooms maintain a 60/40 split between free/reduced lunch and paid lunch). …

Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school “choice” with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Why not reflect on those “high standards of excellence” beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.

* * * * *

So, my school doesn’t have a NEED for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips. Just down the street you have access to a phenomenal children’s librarian: Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations.

Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art. Grace Hwang Lynch’s School Library Journal article, “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books,” reports on Katie Ishizuka’s work analyzing the minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss’s characters. Scholar Philip Nel’s new book, Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books, further explores and shines a spotlight on the systemic racism and oppression in education and literature.

I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration. You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations.

Warmly,

Liz Phipps Soeiro
School Librarian
Cambridge, MA

What a self-righteous, self-important pill!

Dr. Seuss a racist? His “Mulberry Street” book (read aloud on YouTube) features a child’s imaginative reference to a rajah riding and elephant and a Chinese man who eats with sticks. Wow! How terrible.

11 Sep 2017

Out With Lafayette, Too (Dirty Slave-Owner)

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WRAL reports on just how all-encompassing the wrath of the righteous has become.

Fayetteville, N.C. — Cumberland County’s interim schools superintendent this week canceled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a school environmental initiative because the program’s mascot, Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette, owned slaves.

“I think in lieu of what’s going on around the nation and the sensitivity to issues concerning the history of slavery in the country, there was concern there that it may be offensive to some members of our community,” Superintendent Tim Kinlaw said, citing recent protests and violence surrounding Confederate Civil War monuments.

Biographers say Lafayette, a Frenchman who was a major general in the Continental Army, was an abolitionist who purchased slaves with the intent of freeing them. In 1783, Fayetteville was the first of several towns in America to be named for him.

RTWT

02 Sep 2017

We’re All “Serfs on Google’s Farm”

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Josh Marshall, at leftist Talking Points Memo,

[W]e at TPM – and some version of this is the case for the vast majority of publishers – are connected to Google at almost every turn. … Running TPM absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.

But here’s where the rubber really meets the road. The publishers use DoubleClick. The big advertisers use DoubleClick. The big global advertising holding companies use Doubleclick. Everybody at every point in the industry is wired into DoubleClick. Here’s how they all play together. The adserving (Doubleclick) is like the road. (Adexchange) is the biggest car on the road. But only AdExchange gets full visibility into what’s available. (There’s lot of details here and argument about just what Google does and doesn’t know. But trust me on this. They keep the key information to themselves. This isn’t a suspicion. It’s the model.) So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. So not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. It also gets to make the first bid on every bit of inventory. Of course that’s critical. First dibs with more information than anyone else has access to. (Some exceptions to this. But that’s the big picture.) It’s good to be the king. It’s good to be a Google.

There’s more I’ll get to in a moment but the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is so vastly important to the entirety of the web, digital publishing and the entire ad industry that it is almost impossible to overstate. Again. They own the road. They make the rules for the road. They get special privileges on the road with every new iteration of rules.

In recent years, the big new things are various kinds of private deals and private markets you can set up to do business in different ways with advertisers. That uses Google architecture and they take a percentage. How much of a percentage does Google take on what I was referring to above – the so-called open auction? No one knows.

Now Google can say – and they are absolutely right – that every month they send checks for thousands and millions of dollars to countless publishers that make their journalism possible. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord. But as someone who a) knows the industry inside and out – down to the most nuts and bolts mechanics – b) someone who understands at least the rudiments of anti-trust law and monopoly economics and c) can write for a sizable audience, I can tell you this.: Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

There’s one way that Google is better than Facebook. When Facebook is getting a bigger and bigger share of the advertising pie, that money is almost all going to Facebook. There are some small exceptions but that’s basically the case. When Google is making insane amounts of money on advertising, it’s not really the same since a huge amount of that advertising is running on websites which are getting a cut. Still, the big story is that Google and Facebook now have a dominant position in the entirety of the advertising ecosystem and are using their monopoly power to take more and more of the money for themselves.

We’re basically too small for Google to care about. So I wouldn’t say we’ve had any bad experiences with Google in the sense of Google trying to injure us or use its power against us. What we’ve experienced is a little different. Google is so big and so powerful that even when it’s trying to do something good, it can be dangerous and frightening.

Here’s an example.

With the events of recent months and years, Google is apparently now trying to weed out publishers that are using its money streams and architecture to publish hate speech. Certainly you’d probably be unhappy to hear that Stormfront was funded by ads run through Google. I’m not saying that’s happening. I’m just giving you a sense of what they are apparently trying to combat. Over the last several months we’ve gotten a few notifications from Google telling us that certain pages of ours were penalized for ‘violations’ of their ban for hate speech. When we looked at the pages they were talking about they were articles about white supremacist incidents. Most were tied to Dylann Roof’s mass murder in Charleston.

Now in practice all this meant was that two or three old stories about Dylann Roof could no longer run ads purchased through Google. I’d say it’s unlikely that loss to TPM amounted to even a cent a month. Totally meaningless. But here’s the catch. The way these warnings work and the way these particular warnings were worded, you get penalized enough times and then you’re blacklisted.

Now, certainly you’re figuring we could contact someone at Google and explain that we’re not publishing hate speech and racist violence. We’re reporting on it. Not really. We tried that. We got back a message from our rep not really understanding the distinction and cheerily telling us to try to operate within the no hate speech rules. And how many warnings until we’re blacklisted? Who knows?

If we were cut off, would that be Adexchange (the ads) or DoubleClick for Publishers (the road) or both? Who knows?

If the first stopped we’d lose a big chunk of money that wouldn’t put us out of business but would likely force us to retrench. If we were kicked off the road more than half of our total revenue would disappear instantly and would stay disappeared until we found a new road – i.e., a new ad serving service or technology. At a minimum that would be a devastating blow that would require us to find a totally different ad serving system, make major technical changes to the site to accommodate the new system and likely not be able to make as much from ads ever again. That’s not including some unknown period of time – certainly weeks at least – in which we went with literally no ad revenue.

Needless to say, the impact of this would be cataclysmic and could easily drive us out of business.

Now it’s never happened. And this whole scenario stems from what is at least a well-intentioned effort not to subsidize hate speech and racist groups. Again, it hasn’t happened. So in some sense the cataclysmic scenario I’m describing is as much a product of my paranoia as something Google could or might do. But when an outside player has that much power, often acts arbitrarily (even when well-intentioned) and is almost impossible to communicate with, a significant amount of paranoia is healthy and inevitable.

I give this example only to illustrate the way that Google is so powerful and so all-encompassing that it can actually do great damage unintentionally.

RTWT

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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NYM is obviously a lot smaller than TPM, and unlike TPM, tries to operate without outside funding. This is undoubtedly severely limiting. I pay for expenses out of pocket, and can’t afford subscriptions to costly research services. I have no interns or assistants. I don’t make anything more than pocket change, and therefore blogging is just a small avocation and minor duty for me. A more serious blog, making a real income, would contain a lot more original writing and research.

Sometime back, I used to make something like $150-200 a couple of times a year from Google Adsense. One day Google’s Ads disappeared. It took me six months or so to notice (sigh!). And when I looked into what had happened, this was roughly four years ago, I found I had been given an ultimatum from Google. I had to remove a posting and beg to be forgiven, and then I might have my ads restored.

I sent the Google Adsense team a foreign language literary reference, “Ich heisse Götz von Berlichingen,” inviting them to kiss my ass. I have since done without Google Adsense.

Here’s the posting describing all that.

Josh Marshall is right, I think, to be concerned with the power wielded these days by a handful of corporations which have arrived at positions of control over speech and communications incidentally in the course of the more conventional corporate drive for profit and market control.

Companies like Google are demonstrably not above applying Planetary-sized corporate muscle to enforce standards not only of speech, but of opinion, reflecting the mere prejudices and whims of corporate chieftains applied robotically by lesser imps deep in the depths of their own bureaucracy.

Libertarians like myself would normally be found arguing that Google isn’t really a monopoly, you can use Duck Duck Go or Bing instead, and contending that corporations have a right to make their own terms. Today, however, we have corporations possessed, ephemerally perhaps, of dominant position gate-keeping kinds of power, appointing themselves as universal censors of speech and political opinion they do not like. They are literally able to silence people they look upon unfavorably, and they are therefore, in reality, exercising governmental powers without anybody ever having voted and elected them.

The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 applied an older Common Law doctrine of Public Accommodations being required to serve everyone. There is no reason that the same doctrine shouldn’t be applied to the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Go Daddy.

23 Aug 2017

“Moved to an As-Yet-Undecided Location Where it Will be Available for Study and Viewing”

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Remember the little architectural joke detail near a previously-little-used entrance to Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library that, what with impending more frequent passage of more visitors, earlier this month, was deemed problematically guilty of endorsing European oppression of Native Americans, as well as triggering to hoplophobes, by the powers that be in the library administration, resulting in the Puritan with the blunderbuss being covered over by a large rock, but the sneaky redskin left perfectly free to stalk his adversary with a bow-and-arrow?

The Yale Daily News reports that merely covering half the image with a rock has been found to be inadequate.

Yale will remove from Sterling Memorial Library a stone carving that depicts a Puritan holding a musket to the head of a Native American, University officials announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes in the wake of widespread criticism of Yale for initially covering the musket with removable stonework. The concealment of the musket was first reported by the Yale Alumni Magazine on Aug. 9.

Rather than alter the image, the University now plans to move the stonework — which is located near the entrance to the recently renovated Center for Teaching and Learning — to an as-yet-undecided location where it will be available for study and viewing.

You have to hand it to the Yale Administration.

The decision to cover the musket was made by employees in Yale’s facilities division who were involved in the renovation of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor.

“They were told to figure out how to remove it, and they thought it was going to be too difficult to remove,” O’Connor said. “So they thought, ‘We know it’s controversial, we’ll figure it out, we’re can-do people, and we will cover it.’”

O’Connor declined to name the Yale officials involved in that decision. But she said the employees were unaware of the University’s principles for renaming, which were outlined in a report released last December.

The report stipulates that the University should contextualize renaming decisions to avoid “erasing history.” The covering of the musket contradicted that principle, Yale officials say.

In a statement on Tuesday, University President Peter Salovey said Yale should not “make alterations to works of art on our campus.”

“Such alteration represents an erasure of history, which is entirely inappropriate at a university,” Salovey said. “We are obligated to allow students and others to view such images, even when they are offensive, and to study and learn from them.”

They are not “altering” the work of art that is Sterling Memorial Library. They are not “erasing history.” No, no, no, they are merely “moving” it “to an as-yet-undecided location where it will be available for study and viewing.”

One expects that it won’t be all that long before people guilty of Wrong Think will not be exiled or purged, they will just be “moved to an as-yet-undecided location [one much resembling Siberia] where they will be available for study and viewing.”

RTWT

11 Aug 2017

PC Vandalism to Architecture of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale

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Yale Alumni Mag:

If you were especially observant during your years on campus, you may have noticed a stone carving by the York Street entrance to Sterling Memorial Library that depict a hostile encounter: a Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American (top). When the library decided to reopen the long-disused entrance as the front door of the new Center for Teaching and Learning, says head librarian Susan Gibbons, she and the university’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces decided the carving’s “presence at a major entrance to Sterling was not appropriate.” The Puritan’s musket was covered over with a layer of stone (bottom) that Gibbons says can be removed in the future without damaging the original carving.

HT: Instapundit.

28 Jul 2017

PC Today

20 Jul 2017

Kings College Replaces Portraits of White Founders With “Wall of Diversity”

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Sir Frederick Mott and Sir Henry Maudsley founded the Institute of Psychiatry in 1924.

Telegraph:

King’s College London is to swap portraits of some of its founding fathers with a “wall of diversity” amid pressure from students, a dean says.

The plans to move portraits of former faculty staff from the main entrance wall and replace them with more BME [“Black and Minority Ethnic”] scholars are being implemented by the world famous Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, following concern among academics that the current classroom environment is too “intimidating” for ethnic minorities.

The proposals were unveiled by Professor Patrick Leman, the Institute’s dean of education, who said that the faculty should not just be filled with “busts of 1920s bearded men” but rather more modern, diverse scholars so that the Institute feels less “alienating”.

Founded in 1924 as a hospital medical school, the Institute owes its existence to a donation from Dr Henry Maudsley, a pioneering British psychiatrist, and neurologist Sir Frederick Mott, who drew up plans for university courses for training in the field of psychiatry in 1896.

Their busts, which are believed to be the subject of Professor Leman’s remarks, were placed in the Institute in recognition of their work.

It comes two years after King’s sparked controversy for removing a photograph of Lord Carey, the former of Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to his opposition to gay marriage.

Facing widespread criticism at the time, the university defended its review of a “window display policy” on the grounds that some images had been unrepresentative of the “diversity of our university community”.

Professor Leman, who describes himself as “tribal Labour” in blogs, added that portraits lining the main entrance are “almost entirely white middle-aged men” and will be replaced with a “wall of diversity”.

He added that all current portraits of former deans would be “taken down” and rehung, with some being placed in less prominent positions, in comments that could be interpreted as them being sidelined by the Institute.

Meanwhile, teaching materials, such as diagrams of the human anatomy, will be changed to feature a “range of ethnic groups”, rather than just the “standard white male”.

Prof Leman said the plans had been backed by the faculty’s student body, which has been “exceptionally good” in pushing for a diversification of the curriculum.

“We’re trying to reflect the diversity in terms of students we have, but also trying to be more inter-cultural, more international in terms of how we develop the science,” he told The Telegraph.

“A great deal of medical, psychological research has been of white, male, North American or European students…so increasingly we try and broaden it to include more recent research from Asia, Africa, and from other parts of the world.

RTWT

19 Jul 2017

USA Today: Not Enough Women & Minorities in “Dunkirk”

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Free Beacon was amused.

The USA Today review of Christopher Nolan’s newest film Dunkirk notes that there are not enough women and people of color in the World War II epic.

Film critic Brian Truitt gave the film a glowing review.

“The movie captures the real-life heroism of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, when nearly 400,000 Allied soldiers were pulled out after the Germans trapped them on a beach in Nazi-occupied France,” he wrote. “Nolan’s ambitious story revolves around three tales unfolding at different times over land, sea, and air, only coming together at the end.”

But somewhat apologetically, Truitt also bemoaned the film’s lack of diversity.

“The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way,” Truitt wrote.

The film revolves around the exploits of the British Expeditionary Force, which was drafted from the British Isles. Accordingly, there were no known women on the beaches of Dunkirk and or many people of color.

13 Jul 2017

Swedish Suburb Burning Childrens’ Classic

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Bruce Bawer, at PJ Media, has the story.

What is Swedish culture? A lot of people who still believe in such things would put Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002) at or near the top of that list. During her lifetime, Lindgren was beyond question the most beloved figure in all of Sweden. Her books, about Pippi Longstocking and other characters, were translated into countless languages.

I didn’t grow up on them, but millions of children did, not only in Sweden but around the world. After I moved to Norway, I caught up with the wonderful television series Emil i Lönneberga, based on her novels about a rambunctious farmboy, and came to appreciate Lindgren’s distinctive humor and charm, her skill at handling both the harshly realistic and the extravagantly fanciful, her ability to touch one’s heart without being treacly and sentimental, and her striking combination of delight in subversiveness and respect for moral responsibility.

Lindgren’s influence in her native country was immense. When she revealed in a 1976 article that her income tax rate as a self-employed writer was 102 percent, it brought down the Social Democratic government that had been in power for forty-four years and resulted in an overhaul of the tax system. In 1979, spurred largely by a speech by Lindgren, Sweden became the first nation to make it illegal to strike children.

Despite her role in bringing down the government in 1976, Lindgren was, like pretty much everyone else in Sweden’s intellectual and cultural elite, a committed Social Democrat. And when her books were first coming out, they caused a degree of concern among cultural conservatives.

As the Washington Times noted in its obituary, “Pippi Longstocking was an instant hit among children” but “parents often were shocked by the unruly Pippi, who rebelled against society and happily mocked institutions such as the police and charity ladies.” One admirer, author Laura Pedersen, told the Times that Lindgren’s books had a “wonderful subversion. … She talked about breaking the rules … we often see rules that are wrong, and they should be broken.” But not everyone approved.

In 2017, however, it’s not conservatives who are criticizing Lindgren. The other day came the news that the library in Botkyrka municipality, on the outskirts of Stockholm, had burned older editions of one of the Pippi books, Pippi in the South Seas (1948), because local officials have decided that they “contain racism.”

After this action came to light, the municipality issued a press release acknowledging that the books had indeed been destroyed because they contained “obsolete expressions that can be perceived as racist” – but that they had been replaced on the library shelves by a 2015 edition of the book from which those expressions have been carefully scrubbed.

Since Lindgren died in 2002, of course, she was not around to grant anybody the right to fiddle with her prose. Her publishers had simply taken it upon themselves to do to her work what a lot of people would love to do to, say, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Like Mark Twain, Lindgren was the very opposite of a racist. But her use of language in Pippi in the South Seas, like that in Huck Finn, violates the Left’s current ideological tests.

RTWT

02 Jul 2017

What She Said!

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Theater critic Hedy Weiss

Kyle Smith, at National Review, reflects on the over-the-top reaction from Chicago theatrical circles to some modest remarks in defense of the local police by one of the windy cities leading critics.

In Chicago, where there were more homicides last year than in Los Angeles and New York City combined, expressing any support whatsoever for the police is now considered an outrage. Should you point out that, say, a play seems to suggest cops are evil crackers, you may find yourself denounced as a racist and targeted for abuse and ostracization.

A theater writer has just found that out. In what the website American Theatre dubbed “the review that shook Chicago,” adding in a subhead that “Local theatre artists rise in revolt,” veteran theater critic Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized a new play called Pass Over, which I haven’t seen but is being described as a kind of update of Waiting for Godot filtered through the sensibility of Black Lives Matter. The play, by Antoinette Nwandu, was mounted by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, perhaps the most celebrated outfit of its kind outside of New York City. Weiss found its racial politics to be a bit reductionist, and offered these thoughts in her review:

    No one can argue with the fact that this city (and many others throughout the country) has a problem with the use of deadly police force against African-Americans. But, for all the many and varied causes we know so well, much of the lion’s share of the violence is perpetrated within the community itself. Nwandu’s simplistic, wholly generic characterization of a racist white cop (clearly meant to indict all white cops) is wrong-headed and self-defeating. Just look at news reports about recent shootings (on the lakefront, on the new River Walk, in Woodlawn) and you will see the look of relief when the police arrive on the scene.

Cue unbridled rage. Steppenwolf charged her with “deep-seated bigotry.” An actor named Bear Bellinger announced that he would not perform if Weiss showed up at a workshop production he was appearing in. An ad-hoc coalition that might as well have dubbed itself the Blackball Hedy Movement (but is actually called the Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition, or CTAC) launched a petition via change.org to organize the theater world of Chicago against Weiss by denying her invitations to its plays. Several theater organizations have publicly agreed to join the blackballing effort, and dozens have offered noncommittal statements of support. The group’s broadside against Weiss reads, “Over the last few years especially, we have joined together to make it clear that inappropriate language or behavior does not have a place within our community, and that prejudice of any kind will not stand.”

Wait a minute — inappropriate behavior? Inappropriate language? Weiss cannot reasonably be accused of either of these things. She isn’t disrupting plays. She isn’t using curse words and slurs in her reviews. She isn’t, as far as I know, belching loudly during shows nor unwrapping candies during quiet moments. CTAC should be honest with itself and admit that its charge against Weiss is that she is thinking inappropriate thoughts. It was less than two years ago that Steppenwolf mounted a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. Do these people not recognize their kinship with the thought police? Do they not see that “Shut up” is not an argument?

To join the Hedy Weiss Resistance seems self-defeating on the one hand and pointless on the other — she could, after all, simply buy tickets to the plays, and pass along the cost to her employers (the Sun-Times pledged such support in its editorial defending her). Moreover, if she actually were successfully kept away from plays in Chicago, those plays would lose the publicity fillip of being written about in a widely read newspaper.

And what part of Weiss’s review is indefensible? Is not most of the violence perpetrated against blacks in Chicago, and elsewhere, carried out by other blacks? Of course it is. I won’t bother to cite statistics because everyone knows this. Do not ordinary law-abiding black citizens respond with relief when mayhem is answered by the arrival of police? To say otherwise would be to charge black communities with valuing bloodshed more than order. As for whether the portrayal of the cop in the play is meant to indict all police officers, or whether that portrayal is simplistic and generic, I couldn’t say, not having seen the play. But expressing opinions on the depth and subtlety of a play is what all theater critics do. …

The theater world is a place where being “subversive” and “transgressive” are considered the highest of all virtues. But what’s going on in Chicago is a reminder is that greasepaint revolutionaries can barely handle even mild intellectual opposition. They picture themselves riding bravely into the battlefield of ideas. But if anyone shows up to fight for the other side, they cry meekly, “Excuse me, I don’t think you’re allowed here.”

29 Jun 2017

Saying “Homework Was Easy” Deemed a Microagression by Stanford Prof

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Ruth Starkman, writing specialist for Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science.

HeatStreet records another PC landmine that today’s elite college students at Stanford have been warned to avoid.

To the mounting list of ways to possibly offend other students on college campuses these days, you can now add talking about your homework.

“Sure, you had no ill-intent, and absolutely nothing racist in mind at all,” Stanford Prof, Ruth Starkman writes in the Huffington Post. But by merely uttering the words out loud, you risk a microaggression because you don’t know who in class may have struggled with the assignment, she says.

Trying to explain why an assignment wasn’t too hard for you is also a microaggression, Starkman advises students at elite colleges like Stanford. So don’t even think about telling peers if you’ve already been exposed to a subject or idea in high school.

“Not everyone went to your high school, had your fortunate circumstances, or such a dazzling delivery room arrival, and even if they did, they might still be suffering because of the genuine challenges of the assignments,” Starkman writes.

Fundamentally, Starkman says, some students struggle while others breeze through because of an injustice—namely “unevenly distributed knowledge.”

In Starkman’s mind, any student who comes to an elite university with a decent educational foundation is excelling because of their wealth and privilege. “Chances are,” Starkman writes, “your parents paid substantial sums of money for that knowledge, either in property taxes in highly resourced school districts or in private education or in pricey enrichment.” …

“Your response ‘I already had this in high school’ really means ‘not only do I have rich parents, I somehow took exactly the right courses to be perfectly prepared,’” Starkman writes. “Congrats if you did. Try not to be a jerk about it.”

22 Jun 2017

Tattletales Went Sneaking to Prigs at Harvard

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The Tab has examples of the naughty jokes posted in a private Facebook group that led to ten students admitted to the Harvard Class of 2021 having their admissions rescinded.

We learn, too, that the authorities at Harvard found out about the offending postings in the first place because a number of fellow future Harvard classmates tattled to the Admissions Office.

Wow! Maybe having one’s admission rescinded and not attending college for four years with certain sanctimonious little shits isn’t such a misfortune after all. Me, if I were running that Admissions Office, I’d have rescinded the admissions of all the little sneaks who ratted out their classmates.

Wyatt Hurt, another member of the Class of 2021, said: “I wasn’t surprised by the actions of the administration and I thought that they were the right actions to take. Other students I’ve talked to, from Harvard and otherwise, all generally agree that it was the right action as well.

“Harvard is one of the schools that is shaping the leaders of the future – it’s absolutely a privilege to attend, and when those students posted such hateful material it became clear that they weren’t honoring that privilege.

“As far as how administration found out, I know that a few other admitted students sent screenshots to the admissions office.”

———————

Apart from our contemporary era’s loss of consciousness of the sense of loyalty and group solidarity that, in the past, would have regarded informing on a fellow classmate as contemptible and dishonorable, reading all this caused me to reflect once again that the Great Big Brains running our most illustrious Establishment institutions are not only fascist prigs, they are just plain stupid.

The people running the Harvard Admissions Office demonstrably not only lack senses of humor, they clearly do not understand how humor works.

To regard posting memes based upon transgressive humor as a punishable offense, you would have to be taking the joke literally, as an authentic statement of a real proposition or opinion, which is, of course, absurd. Humor works in a variety of ways. One pretty well-known kind of humor is the genre of transgressive humor, a category that would include the “dirty joke.” There is no mystery here. Everyone ought to recognize the kind of jokes I am referring to. Minority and Gay and Left-wing comedians all make very much a specialty of using jokes which cross taboo lines, jokes which violate propriety and conventional bourgeois sensibilities.

This is actually perfectly natural in comedy. One basic way that humor works is by the reversal of the audience’s expectation, what Gilbert & Sullivan, who in their comic operettas amused audiences by having respectable principals humorously disclose the basest and most cynical motivations in song, referred to a Topsy-Turvy-dom. There are all sorts of ways of reversing the audience’s expectation to get a laugh. One can have a cartoon cat chase the dog, the rabbit defeat the hunter, the roadrunner best the coyote again and again. And, another standard technique of humor is to deliberately cross the boundaries of proper language, sexual reference, or propriety. In our own age, in which political correctness is a potent force, violating PC by mocking or expressing negative attitudes toward minority sacred cows is obviously a potential gold mine for improper humor.

When a person tells a travelling salesman joke, it actually does not mean that he literally despises farmers and their daughters, or that he really thinks farmer’s daughters are readily seducible. When someone repeats an ethnic or racial joke, it does not mean that the person literally believes its contents to be true, or that he is a bigot or a racist.

Indulging in improper, off-color humor can be a way of letting of steam, or a way of expressing momentary boredom with the obligations of propriety. It can even be a way of reinforcing group solidarity, by causing members of a group (a bunch of the men at a party or some group of soon-to-be-entering Harvard freshmen) to collaborate in mischievously and covertly violating social norms. This, of course, is why, a few years ago, the DKE initiation at Yale had pledges stand outside the Feminist Center and chant: “No means yes!”

When adult authorities at places like Yale and Harvard routinely mistake mildly rambunctious adolescent speech in obviously humorous contexts for authentic forms of thought crime, I would contend, it demonstrates that levels of both mutton-headed stupidity and sanctimonious self-righteousness on the part of the people running things in those places have risen to intolerable levels.

06 Jun 2017

So Much For Privacy and Free Speech

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At The Game in 2004, Yalies tricked Harvard fans into holding up signs creating this message.”

The Crimson reports:

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups [i.e., Jokes] in a private Facebook group chat.

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvard’s decision to rescind a student’s offer is final. …

The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.

“A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” Jessica Zhang ’21, an incoming freshman who joined both chats, wrote in an email. “Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”

Messages shared in the original group were mostly “lighthearted,” wrote Zhang, who said she did not post in the splitoff meme group and that her admission offer was not rescinded. But some members soon suggested forming “a more R-rated” meme chat, according to Cassandra Luca ’21, who joined the first meme group but not the second, and who also said her offer was not revoked.

Luca said the founders of the “dark” group chat demanded that students post provocative memes in the larger messaging group before allowing them to join the splinter group.

“They were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,’” Luca said. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”

Employees in the Admissions Office emailed students who posted offensive memes in mid-April asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group, according to one member of the chat whose admission offer was revoked. The student spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified with the messages.

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics,” reads a copy of the Admissions Office’s email obtained by The Crimson. “As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee.”

“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email reads.

The anonymous student also said that administrators informed implicated students that their admissions status was under review and instructed them not to come to Visitas, Harvard’s annual weekend of programming for prospective freshmen held at the end of April. Roughly a week later, at least ten members of the group chat received letters informing them that their offers of admission had been withdrawn.

The description for the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, set up and maintained by the Admissions Office, disclaims all administrative responsibility for “unofficial groups” and warns members their admissions offers can be rescinded under specific circumstances.

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character,” the description reads.

Luca said she had mixed feelings about the administration’s move to revoke admissions offers. She said she was “going back and forth” on the matter.

“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” Luca said. “I don’t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasn’t Harvard-affiliated, it was people doing stupid stuff.”

She added, though, that if memes sent over the chat posed any kind of threat to members’ lives or well-being, then she believed administrators’ actions were justified.

Other members of the Class of 2021 said they strongly supported the Admissions Office’s decision. Zhang wrote that she thought the students’ actions were indefensible, and that the administration was correct in choosing to penalize those who posted obscene images.

“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang wrote. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”

“I do not know how those offensive images could be defended,” she added.

Wyatt Hurt ’21, who said he did not participate in either meme chat, agreed and said he was glad administrators took action.

“I haven’t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice and I think that as an incoming student—we all have our group chats and everything like that going on—we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision,” he said.

Hurt added that he recently attended several scholarship conferences and that students he met at those events—many of whom he said planned to matriculate at Ivy League schools—also agreed that “rescinding was definitely the way to go.”

This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat, prompting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 to issue a joint statement condemning the students’ actions.

“Harvard College and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid were troubled and disappointed to see a conversation that included graphics with offensive themes,” Khurana and Fitzsimmons wrote in their statement, which they posted on the Class of 2020’s Facebook page.

But administrators chose not to discipline members of the Class of 2020 who authored the messages. Then-Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said in an interview at the time that the individuals in question were “not matriculated students at this point.

RTWT

Where does Harvard get off investigating the content of teenage admittees’ jokes in a private group on social media?

This country needs a federal law absolutely protecting the privacy of all electronic communication, including both email and social media. Beyond that, email services and social media companies ought to be held liable when private communications are intruded upon with resulting injury to their owners.

One is inclined to advise those wronged ten students that they ought to consider themselves lucky that Fate has saved them from becoming members of that community of prigs and Pharisees in Cambridge. In a properly-run world, the president of Yale would respond by ordering letters of admission sent to each of those ten kids.

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